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Dinner with friends using gift certificate

I have a gift certificate of $100 for a restaurant. I am going to dinner with my girlfriend and three other friends.

I am planning to use the gift certificate to pay for my meal and my girlfriend's meal. I'm not sure we will be able to order $100 of food. The amount remaining cannot be reused at another time. What should we do with the remaining amount? Should we have one single bill for the party of five or individual bills?

My worry is that if we have one single bill and the meal comes to a total of $200, we will use the gift certificate and then divide the remaining amount in 5. So ($200 - $100)/5, which means that my girlfriend and I will pay $40 more.

Or will it look cheap if we have separate bills for everyone and we just waste the remaining amount?

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  1. I think it's simple. When the bill comes, you should put the card in and say "this is for Sally and me" and then let the remaining 3 divide up the total check less 100. If the cost will be greater than 100 for the both of you, put in the card plus the extra cash. I don't think you should waste it - given that you're there with friends, you should share the wealth if you can.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jenhen2

      i'm with jenhen2. And the reason the OP has the card or who bought it is irrelevant. Make sure your whole end is covered, and if the others give you any guff you can always ask the waiter for anything left over from the card back, if you're so inclined.

      1. re: EWSflash

        Wow, you're hardcore. Love it.

        I have a couple observations about this thread:

        a) I think it's pretty useless since it was pretty evident very quickly that if the OP didn't get the answer he/she was looking for, they were going to lash out.

        b)Find it exasperating that this is in my thread file and I have to keep looking at the new responses and people not reading through the entire thread to see that OP HAS ALREADY GONE TO THE DINNER. IT'S FINISHED!!!

        Sorry, but this had to be said. Whether this stays up to be heard is another story.

        1. re: Restaurant Dish

          That's okay- I love seeing what a convoluted cluster**** of several of the Seven Deadly Sins this ended up being! Wow, what a fiasco.

          1. re: Restaurant Dish

            Since when has whether the OP has or hasn't gone to the dinner mattered in one of these threads? Sure.......... there was an answer being sought, but commenting on how the situation was handled (or should have been handled) is pretty typical behavior. I've seen it begin again several years after the original post. :o)

            1. re: Midlife

              Waste. Of. Time. But you're right, it's happened before and will happen again.

      2. Except you don't say whether the gift certificate wasn't paid for by you OR if it was a gift - paid for by neither yourself or your girlfriend. If it was a gift from someone else, you really wouldn't be paying $40 more, would you?

        If the tab (plus tip, let's say 20%, for a total tab of $240) is reduced by your $100 GC, the five of you then divide the remain $140 - $28.00 each. And in a sense, you gift/pay it forward to your 3 friends as well, by lowering their tab.

        If you don't want to do this, perhaps it's better that you and your girlfriend go another time and use the GC just for yourselves. Or ask for two tabs - one for you and your girlfriend and one for the other three friends, although I still think that's awkward.

        Whatever you do - make sure your tip is based on the full tab, please? :-)

        3 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit

          We pay for the gift certificate. This is why I was referring to $100 + whatever the amount is left...

          1. re: chico_001

            OK - so you bought the GC yourself - your mother/aunt/boss didn't give it to you. (ETA: Agree with Restaurant Dish below - not sure why you'd buy yourself a GC!) And you don't think the two of you can spend $100 at said restaurant, including what you drink.

            Then I would say that you figure out the total cost of the entire tab with tip, put in your $100GC, and if that covers it for the two of you, great. If it pays a bit more, consider that a gift to your 3 other friends, and let them split the remaining amount.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            If the tab is $240, then each person should pay $48, which means he has covered him and his GF (for $96 with $4 left over). If everyone puts in $48 and he puts in the gift card, then the waiter gets an extra $4, which I think is a perfect solution. I don't see any reason to use the card to reduce everyone's tab - unless, of course, the OP was in the position of wanting to share it with all the friends, which it doesn't sound like he is.

          3. Four choices:
            1. Save the GC some other time when it's just you and your friend.
            2. Ask for separate checks and use the GC for your (and your friend's) check only.
            3. Throw the GC in to the communal payment pot and try to be ok with contributing more than your share.
            4. Hang back on throwing the GC in the communal pot until others have put their payment in the pot. If there's enough cash to make up the difference, put in the GC and take the difference in cash as your "change" (as you would if you only had a large bill). Just be careful about taking all the tip $$ because it is unclear whether a GC can cover a tip. Or if everyone throws down credit cards, just tell the server that you'd like your share taken off the GC.

            1 Reply
            1. re: akq

              I would not do number four...at all

            2. I'm not sure if I'm going to be of any help, but I am curious about two things:

              Why did you buy yourself a gift certificate? I mean instead of just using cash at this restaurant?

              Why are you not able to save the difference of what's left on the card? Usually this is how it's done and I've never heard otherwise.

              There's something I'm not getting here.

              16 Replies
              1. re: Restaurant Dish

                This gift certificate was sold at $50 for a value of $100 at the restaurant. The catch is that you have to spend the entire $100 amount in a single visit.

                1. re: chico_001

                  OK, then you only spent $50 actual dollars of your own money, right? You didn't spend $100 - but you'll get $100 off the bill. Would help to know these things in the OP so we could all respond properly.

                  At this point, it's gotten too convoluted, especially with the actual money spent for vs. actual usable value on the GC. Why not just treat everyone to dinner at a nice restaurant and use the GC to take $100 off the entire tab?

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I don't see why the way the OP obtained the $100 gift certificate matters. The OP has $100 to spend at the restaurant however (s)he pleases. The OP made it clear that they didn't want to treat anyone else other than their friend.

                    As for the solution, I pretty much agree with what akq said.

                    1. re: kwjd

                      The OP said they'd be "spending extra" if they split it 5 ways, giving everyone the impression that they had spent $100 to get a $100 GC. But they spent half that amount, but could be getting twice as much for the money they actually spent on the GC.

                      As for what akq said - so did I - at least one of his/her points (using the GC at another time without friends). The OP asked a question, clarified it several times, and I gave another response. Just treat everyone. Otherwise, it's too convoluted.

                      ETA: OR - as the OP initially said - just use your GC for your girlfriend and your tab, and waste the rest if you don't feel magnanimous enough to want to treat your friends as well as your girlfriend.

                    2. re: LindaWhit

                      Exactly. It will be a 'feel good' moment for you, OP! Trust me.

                    3. re: chico_001

                      I re-read your post and follow up and I think I understand your concern. You don't want to contribute your $100 plus an extra $$ if your "share" is less than $100. I can't imagine anyone using fuzzy math like you describe. Assuming the check for you and your friend is $100 or less, just tell them you are contributing the $100 GC which covers your and your friend's check + some of the other 3 friends' checks. They should take the total bill - $100 and divide that amount between the three of them. No biggie. If, on the other hand, your and your friend's share comes out to more than $100, pay the difference in cash.

                      1. re: akq

                        Why does it matter the way in which the gift card is acquired? Is it important for me to mention that I had to wait in a line-up and walk far to pick it up? The point is that I have a gift card of $100.

                        The question is: how should I pay and what's fair?

                        If the bill ends up at $200, I contribute $100 for my girlfriend and me, the three others pay $100, which means $33.33/ person. Is that fair?

                        Or, if the bill ends up at $150, then I contribute $100 and the three others give $50 = $16.67/person? What is fair then?

                        If you win the lottery and you pay $2 for your ticket, do you become Santa Claus and share millions with everybody else because you just pay $2 for your ticket? Does that make you feel good?

                        1. re: chico_001

                          I can honestly say that I've never quite been in your situation because whenever I dine out with friends, one of us either picks up the entire tab, or it's split. Case closed.

                          What is your gut telling you to do chico?

                          PS> Yes, I would share my millions with close friends/family cause that's just the kinda feel good person I am. Then again, maybe it's a generational thing.

                          1. re: chico_001

                            "If the bill ends up at $200, I contribute $100 for my girlfriend and me, the three others pay $100, which means $33.33/ person. Is that fair?"
                            But you *wouldn't* have actually paid $100 - you only paid $50. And then you treat your friends, and they say "Hey chico, thanks a lot! Really appreciate it!" And everyone is happy. Except obviously you, who doesn't want to spend money on his friends.

                            So going back to your original post - don't go there with friends - go with your girlfriend at another time, use what you can and "waste" the rest. Which *is* a waste, when you could generate goodwill amongst your friends for having treated them a little bit to a nice dinner.

                            ::::Shaking my head::::

                            1. re: LindaWhit


                              I think maybe OP is waiting for this: you should use the gift certificate for the $100 and then get everyone to pay you in cash for their portion. Or something to that effect.

                              1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                Yeah, well that statement ain't comin' from ME, that's fer shure. :-P

                                1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                  I agree that this seems to be the answer he's looking for. Sure, I guess you could ask your friends for change... just understand that such action will almost certainly be followed by discussions between your friends about what a tool you are.

                              2. re: chico_001

                                wow...If you feel being friends has anything to do with "being fair" you should you use the GC at another time.

                                1. re: chico_001

                                  Let me ask this, did you pick the restaurant based on having this discount gift certificate? Because I would be uncomfortable if someone else in my party chose a restaurant based on having a discount that only they were going to benefit from.

                                  At minimum, use the gc to pay for yourself and your gf and let any extra offset the bill for the rest. That is likely all you would be able to get free if you went with your gf by yourselves and there is something unseemly about profiting from your friends. If you and your gf spend $85 and you take $15 from the pot, then you have gotten $85 worth of food for $35, which is not the intent of the gc.

                                  1. re: chico_001

                                    I didn't say it matters how you acquired the gift card. what matters (to me) is that you have to use the whole thing in one meal. So either you order $100+ in food to use the whole GC or you wait and use it on a subsequent trip where you will spend $100+ or you use it for this meal and make change for yourself out of what the other people pay in cash (if there's enough cash). Up to you. What I didnt' think was "fair" is that you'd get a separate check for yourself and your friend, say for $60, use the $100 GC and "waste" $40 of the value, just to not contribute to the other diners' bills. That's weird. It would be a different story if you could keep the remaining balance on the GC. Then by all means use the GC for your share only and keep the balance. but that's not an option here...

                                    1. re: chico_001

                                      I think akq has the answer you are looking for.

                              3. Just treat it like cash. After your group has divided up the bill and decided what everyone owes, throw down your gift card. No reason to make a big deal of it by asking for separate checks (unless this is what your friends usually do when you go out.) Since you have to use it all at once, offer any surplus amount to the group, otherwise put cash on top of your $100, need be.

                                1. This does seem to have become overly complicated.

                                  The premise seems simple -- whether or not any of us agree with it, chico wants to use a $100 gift card to pay for himself and his girlfriend only at a meal where several others will be accompanying them.

                                  How much he paid for it, the lengths he did or did not have to go through to get it, and anything else other than how to best use is to accomplish his stated goal is immaterial.

                                  To that end, the following would seem - to me - to be the least complicated methodology:

                                  Divide the total bill (inclusive of tax and tip) 5 ways, and then use your gift card to pay for yourself and your girlfriend -- if your portion X > $100, add the appropriate amount of cash to the $100 gift card to cover your portion.

                                  However, if your portion X < $100, then you need to determine if you would like to be generous and use the leftover amount to defray the cost of the meal for the others, or "get change" for the difference between X and $100.

                                  Personally, I would never do the latter, but that is a decision that is entirely up to you.

                                  (edit: were it me in this situation, I would either not use the gift card at all unless it was just my friend and I, or I would defray the entire check and then split the difference ... but that is just me).

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: a213b

                                    Except he won't get change if his and his girlfriend's portion is less than $100. It cannot be used at another time - he paid $50 for a $100 GC that can only be used one time - if he doesn't use it all that one time, he loses it. So if he chooses your reasoning, he will choose to waste the remainder of the GC amount rather than use it to offset his friends' tabs.

                                    Interesting choice.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      He would get change, in the form of cash. If the bill was $150 total, divided by 5, that would be 30 bucks each. The other three put up $30, assuming they are all paying cash, and OP takes $40 of that in exchange for the $100 GC. $100 GC plus the remaining $50 is $150.

                                      1. re: roro1831

                                        the math is not the problem it is the tackiness!

                                        1. re: LaLa

                                          It's not tacky to make change - what if he only had a $100 bill? I just went to lunch with a group of coworkers and only had $20s, so I left two $20s (for my $15 meal) and took back a $5 someone else had contributed as my change. Big deal.

                                          1. re: LaLa

                                            I think it is tacky as well, but Linda didn't see how he would get change.

                                            1. re: roro1831

                                              No, I say he SHOULDN'T get change if what he owes is less than the $100 GC. He seems to want to only use it for what his girlfriend's and his dinner would be and not pay towards his other 3 friends' meals. But he shouldn't take BACK money.

                                          2. re: roro1831

                                            Majorly faulty math. If he gets BACK $40, that means that the OP only pays $10 total for their two meals (his and his girlfriend's meals). He only paid $50 for the GC! Why in heaven's name would he take back $40 from the cash that the other 3 put in to pay for the meal?

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              He provided $100 worth of payment for the check. It doesn't matter if he only paid $50 for the $100 worth of payment. What if he'd gotten a crisp $100 as a birthday present and used it to pay for his and his girlfriend's $60 tab? Did he "pay" $0 because it was a present? What if he found the $100?
                                              What if he bought the $100 GC at an auction for $200 and put it toward the bill? Does he get "credit" for the full $200 he spent?

                                              I can't see how it makes any difference what he paid for the $100 GC.

                                              1. re: akq

                                                Because he only paid the $50 for the GC. So his meal only cost $50 out of his *own pocket.* He shouldn't get back any money, even if the GC is worth more. Simple as that. If he found $100, different story. That's $100 cash. The GC, despite being worth $100, only *cost* $50. That's all of the money that he spent.

                                                And if he bought a $100 GC at auction for $200, I'd say that's his own dumb fault.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  I, too, fail to see how much he paid for the GC matters whatsoever. I'm agreeing with you of the use of it, but I don't see why the price of the GC factors into the decision. The GC can only be used when the bill is $100 or higher so he shouldn't take any money back, even if he found this $100 GC on the street.

                                        2. re: a213b

                                          If the OP + girlfriend owe > 100, then there is no issue, since they can just leave the gift certificate + the extra.

                                          If the OP + girlfriend owe < 100, I don't think it is right put down the gift certificate and to take money back. I think it would be with a regular gift certificate this would be fine (possibly tacky, but basically fine), but it was noted that the gift certificate requires $100 spent on a single visit. This seems unfair to your friends. That would be like having a 2 for 1 coupon and then expecting your part to be free and allow your friend to pay full. I think it would be fine to put in the $100 gift certificate, say it covers you and your girlfriend, then let the rest of the group split the excess.

                                          1. re: kwjd

                                            The restaurant was chosen because I had the gift certificate, but nobody else had any suggestions, so why not? What is wrong with that?

                                            I will just put down the gift certificate of $100 at the end and I'll ask the others to cover the rest. My worry from the beginning was if I would have had to put down extra money.

                                            1. re: chico_001

                                              Oh, now I see what your concern was! Your gift certificate should definitely be treated like your share of the meal

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                Absolutely. If your share is more than that $100, then yes - you contribute more. But if it's not, then you treat your other 3 friends to a portion of what they would be paying.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Yes, I agree. What I didn't realize was that the OP originally intended on using the gift certificate for the total bill and then paying 2/5 of the remainder. That's a very generous move and totally unnecessary. If the OP uses the gift certificate and his share is less than $100, no need to pay anymore.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    The OP was certainly not as clear as he could have been with information throughout the entire thread until this most recent post.

                                                    But it certainly made for an interesting conversation. :-)

                                              2. re: chico_001

                                                Oh, absolutely nothing is wrong with putting the gift certificate down and not adding any extra money if you owe less than $100. What I, and others, were saying was that you shouldn't put the gift certificate down and then take change if your share didn't quite reach $100.

                                                1. re: chico_001

                                                  "My worry from the beginning was if I would have had to put down extra money."

                                                  I guess this subject is pretty much done with, but I just don't get your point UNLESS, your friends KNEW you only paid $50 for the GC........... then the whole thing would have switched to an ethical dilemma for you. The way you handled it in the end was right and ethical. To have taken 'change', under those circumstances, would have been rather selfish. You did the right thing, either way, but DEFINITELY if they knew.

                                            2. Skimming through most of your responses here, it seems that you are uneasy with the idea of paying for part of your friends' meals. If that is the case, I think the best course of action for you is to save the gift certificate for a later time when it's just the two of you. If this is a restaurant where it's difficult to spend $100 for two, order a more expensive bottle of wine or take some food home.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                The dinner ended up at $180 something.. i put down my $100 and the three other paid around $36 each with the tips.. seems fair..

                                                  1. re: chico_001

                                                    Does seem fair. How was the food???

                                                    1. re: chico_001

                                                      Fair to a degree.
                                                      Do they know you paid $50 for the $100 gift certificate?

                                                      Otherwise they paid $11 more for their meals than you and your girlfriend. But, then again if it weren't for your heads up it would have cost you around $80 for you and your girlfriend. My friends I would have shared the wealth all around and split it evenly ($30/person).

                                                      1. re: chico_001

                                                        I hope you tipped in cash. You cannot tip on a gift card. If not, you stiffed your waiter on your check.

                                                        1. re: chico_001

                                                          From your post above:
                                                          "My worry from the beginning was if I would have had to put down extra money."

                                                          I guess this subject is pretty much done with, but I just didn't get your point UNLESS, your friends KNEW you only paid $50 for the GC........... then the whole thing would have switched to an ethical dilemma for you. The way you handled it in the end was right and ethical. To have taken 'change', under those circumstances, would have been rather selfish, given that it was your choice to use the card or not. You did the right thing, either way, but DEFINITELY if they knew.

                                                      2. I have been in this situation where I was given a $100 gift card, and could take the remaining balance for another time. However, I tossed the card out on a $150 tab and asked that everyone make up the difference however they saw fit. It was a few bucks and certainly no life changing 'lottery win' amount, but made a few people grin that they went home with a happy belly and a few extra dollars in their pockets.

                                                        And of course everyone tipped on the full amount. That is just a given.

                                                        Several years ago I would get 'scrip' as payment for goods and services to various restaurants (think barter). I would often join friends at these restaurants and toss in a supply of scrip that usually came in $20 or $100 increments. I wouldn't cover the whole bill, but certainly never paid cash. I made it interesting enough for everyone that I wouldn't have to contribute a tip in cash. Keep in mind, this was just like cash to me, as I labored or traded hard goods for these babies. The key was to walk away with everyone feeling happy about the occasion.

                                                        And isn't that true in life? Making others feel better about themselves that you do yourself?

                                                        1. I would order extra food for later it would take care of lunch tomorrow or dinner and if its food you like what a treat!